Tag Archives: Calgary Police

Pride in the City!

It has been a momentous couple of weeks for LGBTQ2 history in Calgary, Alberta.

On July 27, 2018, the Calgary Police Service formally apologized to Calgary’s gender and sexually diverse community. In their official statement, they cited their historic opposition to Bill C-150 and said: “after the law changed our organization struggled to embrace the new direction and evolve.”

Bill C-150, of course, was the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada and a subject of our new film: Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story. The documentary short has racked up thousands of views since it launched on July 31. It also garnered some thoughtful media coverage. Thank you, everyone, for the flood of positive regard that has been filling my inbox and social media accounts.

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On August 2, the Calgary Gay History Project along with Sage Theatre and playwright Natalie Meisner received a Calgary Heritage Authority Lion Award for the spring 2018 production of Legislating Love. We were very honoured.

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Actors Matt McKinney & Kathy Zaborsky, Director Jason Mehmel, and Historians Kevin Allen & Tereasa Maillie accepting the Lion!

Calgary Pride is just around the corner. The Calgary Gay History Project has partnered with Calgary Outlink to present an Intergenerational Tea on Saturday, August 25 from 12:30 – 2:30 PM at Memorial Park Library, followed by a Beltline Gay History Walk from 2:30 – 4:00 PM. This event is free and part of Pride in Vic Park, a multi-generational, inclusive and educational event to celebrate Pride Week in Calgary. We are looking for a $300 donation to cover the event food (tax receipt available). Email me at calgarygayhistory@gmail.com if you are feeling generous.

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And if you have more time than money, Calgary Pride needs to fill up their volunteer roster for their incredible ever-growing festival. You can sign up: here. All volunteers get swag!

Finally, we will have a history booth at Pride in the Park again this year on Sunday, September 2. After the parade, come over to talk to us about all things historical!

{KA}

 

Klippert Month – Week 2

It was (Inter) National Coming Out Day this week, which makes it timely to discuss Everett Klippert and his repeated disclosures. Despite homosexuality being a criminal offence in 1960s Canada, and his multiple convictions of gross indecency, he was always frank and truthful in his interactions with the state, even though he paid a severe penalty for that honesty.

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Young Everett Klippert (right) in Klippert Family Photo.

When Calgary Police questioned him about the 18 names in his little black book, which was also his dating record, he confessed to having had homosexual relations with them all.

In Pine Point, NWT, local RCMP brought Klippert in for questioning and threatened him with an arson charge of which he was innocent. Using it as leverage to open Klippert up about his sex life, he readily confessed to having had intimate relations with four men there.

In every court case, he pled guilty. A court psychiatrist reported that Klippert told him his “homosexual behaviour had existed since the age of 15; that to him homosexual activity [was] his only satisfactory sexual outlet. He found the thought of heterosexual conduct abhorrent. He told me that he never had heterosexual relations.”

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Hand-scribbled judicial annotations in Klippert’s 1960 conviction in Calgary. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Gay activist and lawyer Douglas Saunders interviewed the incarcerated Klippert in December 1967 in what he described as the “fortress-like Penitentiary at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.” His unjust treatment gave his convictions a certain resolve. Klippert told Saunders: “If I meet someone on the outside now and he asks me, I’ll say sure I’m a homosexual, what are you? I’m not going to be ashamed of it anymore.” Klippert who grew up Christian took comfort in his prison bible and noted Psalm 22:24 to Saunders: “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

Coming out cost Klippert much. We can thank his candour for prompting Canada to change its draconian laws around sexual orientation in 1969.

{KA}

 

Our History with the Police

This week’s announcement by Calgary Pride, editing the presence of the Calgary Police in the Pride Parade, has stirred deep waters. Calgary’s LGBTQ community has a decidedly conflicted history with the city’s police: ignoring that fact or conflating the past with the present is equally unhelpful. Mayor Nenshi says: “Blaming current people for historical oppression would be like saying: ‘previous mayors of Calgary have refused to proclaim Pride Week, therefore the current mayor of Calgary isn’t invited to the parade.’ I have a challenge with that.”

Yet, as an analogy of the situation, his response is far too superficial.

Redistribution of power is the existential issue of our generation. At every level in society, we see social justice combating social conservatism. There has been a lot of fallout. Although Canada seems to be managing this redistribution slightly better than other places, dealing with atonement, integration and resistance to change has been a weary-making struggle for everyone.

One of the strategies in progressing forward is to know our history and to look at it unflinchingly.

Fact: We were surveilled and incarcerated in large numbers, particularly in the period between World War II and 1969. In 1967, Everett Klippert, a Calgary bus driver received a life sentence just for being gay which triggered a change in the laws around the criminalization of homosexuality in 1969. Calgary leaders, including our politicians, were vehemently opposed to decriminalization. Then police chief Ken McIver described homosexuality as a “horrible, vicious and terrible thing. We do not need this in our country.”

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Police Chief Ken McIver examines police graduates in January 1968: Source Glenbow Archives.

Fact: Calgary Police tracked gay student activists in the 70s, asking the University of Calgary for their records (the University courageously refused), showing up at their apartments and purposefully intimidating them.

Fact: Calgary Police routinely harassed gay men in Central Memorial Park in the 70s and 80s and would sometimes incarcerate them overnight without cause. This was not challenged until 1981 when gay University of Calgary Law Student, Henry Berg, filed a formal complaint against Calgary Police regarding abuse of police power after he spent a night in the drunk tank when he was not inebriated.

Fact: I (Kevin), personally, was stopped by a Calgary Police Officer in the summer of 1996 walking home after work in the late afternoon.  The male officer kept me for 15 minutes, and it became evident during his interrogation that the only reason I had been targeted was for my sexual orientation which he identified by the “funny way I was walking.” Although defiant at the time, I regrettably never pursued a complaint.

Fact: Goliath’s, a gay bathhouse in Calgary was raided for being a common bawdy house in 2002 with both found-ins and operators charged. The Crown eventually stayed the charges citing changed community standards.

Notwithstanding these facts, the Calgary Police have made great strides in transforming their culture concerning sexual and gender diversity – which could not have been easy. The first gay/police liaison committee began in the early 80s and was not a sincere effort but a cynical, placating move. However, over time, the two historically opposing communities built more trust. The police were actively trying to prevent hate crimes against our community throughout the 90s. Now they have diversity officers and actively try to recruit LGBTQ individuals to their ranks. Most recently they courageously opened their archives to the Calgary Gay History Project. It was courageous because a peek in their closet wasn’t pretty.

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A visit to the Calgary Police Archives with the Pride Flag flying at half mast for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida.

We in minority communities have some unattractive things in our closets too. But I firmly believe that we need to seek and share empowerment as we are able. I am a fan of creating braver spaces, as opposed to safer spaces. The viral video of Michelle Obama’s 2016 university commencement address, “Living Without Privilege Makes You Stronger” resonated forcefully with me.

If I had to decide whether Calgary Police could march in the Pride Parade in full uniform this year, I would not know what to do.  I understand and sympathize with the arguments from both sides. I have met Calgary Police officers who are decent people and great allies.

Intellectually, I want to trust police: there are many good reasons to do so, but emotionally – because of my lived experiences – I cannot say that I do. My deepest reflex is to not trust them.

Can my feelings change?  I am not sure.  I earnestly hope so.

{KA}